Big-spending rivals mean the Clayborners will be outsiders in the battle for NCEL Premier Division promotion, but manager Jonathan Rimmington expects his team to punch above their weight...
THE RICHES at the top of football are beginning to trickle into non-league, making even divisions lower down the ladder a game of haves and have-nots, but one man is determined that a little less cash won’t stop his club from aiming high.
Liversedge are embarking on their 29th consecutive season in the NCEL Premier Division, in the ninth tier of the English football pyramid. However, manager Jonathan Rimmington is as confident as ever that his side can overhaul their big-spending rivals.
The eccentric boss makes no bones about what their ambitions are for the coming season: “We’re not conceding anything to any team. We want to win the league.”
Is that aim a realistic one? On the face of it, perhaps not – Liversedge finished in 13th position out of 20 last season, briefly flirting with the relegation zone after a bleak winter before an uplift in results saw them home.
They won seven of their last 10 league games and reached the final of the NCEL Cup, where they matched league champions Worksop Town stride for stride and were unlucky to suffer a 3-1 defeat.
As is often the case at this level, the transfer merry-go-round has been in full swing over the summer. Only five of the 16 players on the cup final teamsheet remain in the squad, although that figure doesn’t include captain and defensive rock Tom Jackson.
Full-back Aaron Fell, young winger Red Bates and last year’s mid-season attacking additions, Alfie Raw and Emile Sinclair, have all stayed on, but most crucially Sedge have retained the services of Joe Walton, who bagged 24 goals last season.
Their star striker will have company this time around though. The prolific Oliver Fearon has joined the club from AFC Mansfield, while Alex Lill has moved from Swallownest alongside goalkeeping brother Josh.
Elsewhere, they have snapped up two Emley midfielders in Michael Bottomley and Shane Hamilton, while Jake Thompson and Joe Kenny return to the club from Eccleshill and Carlton respectively.
As always, Rimmington is looking to give youth a chance as well, with ex-Huddersfield Town defender Harry Clibbens and Yorkshire Amateur’s Nathan Hunt also landing in Clayborn, along with Liam Marsden from Matlock.
The squad may have a very different look but Rimmington, who enters his fifth season as manager, believes it has as much potential as any in the division.
“Once we’ve got our best 16 players, we’ll compete with any team in this league this year,” he declares.
“We are going to compete and we are going to try and get promoted. That is what we’re looking to do, or at least get in the top four or five and then next season, if we keep the squad together, we’ll be ready.
“We don’t want to give the season up already, we want to have a go at everybody. It’s 11 versus 11, I don’t care about names.”
Rimmington is happy to admit that his side have a mid-table budget but believes that they can compete with any of the big-spenders who will be the favourites for the three promotion spots on offer.
“There’s a lot of money in our league this year. Some teams are spending a ridiculous amount of money to try and get promoted,” he said.
“Yorkshire Amateur have probably got four times our budget. Eccleshill have got a bit, Garforth Town, Bridlington Town, Maltby, Mansfield, Bottesford, Grimsby, Knaresborough. There are a lot of teams (with more money).
“We’re just trying to compete with all of them.
“All of those will think they can win the league this year so it’s not going to be easy.”
Alongside a new-look squad there are also some changes in the dugout. Marlon Adams has arrived as assistant boss, and will be helped out by the return to the coaching staff of a former number two, Simon Emery.
Liversedge and Rimmington will be hoping for a much smoother year than the last. The boss was handed a stadium ban at the start of the season and then had time away for health reasons, but returned for the final months of the season with his usual zeal making a difference on the touchline.
He said: “One of our youngsters said to one of the coaches that when Rimmo’s in the dugout we always have a chance of winning and when he’s not there we seem to capitulate!
“It’s my ethos, I’m hungry, I’m jumping about like an idiot. It does make a difference to the players when they’ve got someone on the sidelines helping them and fighting for them.”
There is certainly no lack of fight left in him, and his determination and rhetoric (He jokes “we’ll fight them on the beaches!”) mean that you would always give his side a chance against anybody.
“There are clubs in our league that make us look like dwarves,” Rimmington admits, “but it’s about getting the right team out. Three teams go up this year so there’s a big incentive and we’ll be having a go.”